In my latest book ‘Your navigator’ I share some of the experiences and adventures that forged my own understanding of what makes a difference in leadership – from the leadership qualities that matter through to the leadership principles that make a real difference to individual, team and organisational effectiveness. In a series of blogs over the next 8 weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts from each of the key chapters in ‘Your navigator’.
Week #2 – humility, my favourite leadership quality. Rick Warren says humility is “not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” In this chapter, I share how I had to think of what was going on for others in the leadership context in order to successfully proceed with the mission.
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Shortly before 0200hrs we walked onto the darkened deck of HMS Ocean under a moonless, cloudless sky towards the silhouettes of our aircraft. We boarded the aircraft, strapped in and started up. Soon the dark night was filled with the noise of two CH-47 Chinook helicopters beating their rotas with their characteristic ‘wokka’ signature sound. The commandos and engineers were signalled to board and once they were strapped in we prepared to launch. At 0200hrs the two Chinooks lifted into the black night and we bid farewell to our ten-week nautical home.
There was a subdued mood among the crew. We all knew our roles and the task ahead. We were also aware of the seriousness of the situation. All of us had flown in Bosnia and were aware of the bloody brutality in the Balkan region’s recent history – the reason we had been deployed there was to act as peace-keeping and stabilising forces. However, now we were entering Afghanistan where the mission was different – and the mountains were bigger and the enemy, from what our intelligence told us, was even nastier. The Combat Search and Rescue part of our briefing, specifically what would happen to us if we were captured by the Taliban, was grim. There was a degree of anxiety regarding the unknown ahead of us. However, this was coupled with a resolve to get the job done – none of us were there by accident. I had come to realise that one of the defining aspects of being in the operational side of the military is that we put ourselves in harm’s way in order to achieve something for the greater good. There was a big picture here; and we had a small part to play in it.
Having said farewell to HMS Ocean I dialled up the frequency for AWACS and made my call, his callsign was Magic:
“Magic this is Vortex airborne as fragged, we are bullseye 160 degrees 80 nautical miles, requesting a parrot and India check.”
“Good morning Vortex, stand by,” replied the AWACS operator.
There was a pause whilst the operator looked for us on his radar in the area we had referenced through bullseye and he would then call us back.
“Vortex this is Magic, nothing seen.”
The consequences of at best mis-communication with the AWACS and at worst not being recognised and identified could be severe. On 14thApril 1994 two US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by two US Air Force F-15C Eagle Fighters. Twenty-six people were killed. This happened in daylight, in good flying conditions and following a cease fire in hostilities. Even when procedures were followed, and conditions were favorable, tragedies could happen. We were flying at night, on an operational mission, in the early stages of a military campaign and heading towards one of the most volatile regions on the planet at that time. This was real, and I felt the pressure of the situation – it felt like I was in a dark room and the expectations of both crews on two helicopters were all bearing down on me to get this fixed.
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To find out what happened – ‘Your navigator’ book is available from Amazon:
If you or your organisation is in need of a navigator to develop brilliant leaders and leadership then please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org